Renewal in Yeats' Second Coming and Eliot's Journey of the Magi
Both William Butler Yeats' "Second Coming" and T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi" present a renewal process, but each one focuses on different goals and subjects; Eliot on a particular person's transformation, whereas Yeats predicts a renovation of the entire world as a result of an escalation of chaos. And while Yeats attempts to present a definite picture of what he believes will happen at the time of this renovation, as a human being, lack of foresight leaves him to conclude with nothing more than an unanswerable question. Eliot, on the other hand, uses ambiguity to support and develop his theme: death is the way to rebirth. But for Eliot this rebirth, which must be necessarily obscure, is full of doubt, accompanied by pain, and extremely perplexing to the newly-born (www.fgcu* 6). Eliot utilizes a vague diction and imagery, and his narrative tone progresses to philosophical and doubtful discourse. In contrast, Yeats maintains a pessimistic tone created by his futility on the bleak situation toward which the world proceeds. As opposed to projecting an inevitable and pessimistic demise of the Christian era and a renewal of the world as Yeats does in his poem, "Second Coming," Eliot presents the renewal of a Magus, his way of life and beliefs as a result of the birth of the Christian era.
Yeats views the world and civilization as a cycle: the world revolves on a two thousand year period, and restarts every two thousand years ("Twenty centuries . . . come round at last"). Yeats' view may lead to an initial response of the inescapableness of the world's end, and therefore no need for concern, but his pessimistic outlook results from society's approach to this necessary end. He does not necessarily think that the world has to start over after two thousand years, but simply that after two thousand years the world will have been corrupted to the point of renewal. Herein lies the inevitability of the cycle. Yeats' skillful use of passive voice throughout the remainder of the first stanza craftily implies the inevitability of the developing chaos, ("anarchy is loosed," "tide is loosed," "ceremony of innocence is drowned") as if the anarchy, tide, and ceremony of innocence do not control what happens to them. For Yeats, this chaos, representing the turmoil of his day, signifies that the gyre (metaphor for order in the world) continuously widens, even to the point that the falcon cannot hear the falconer (1,2). As a result "the center cannot hold," and "mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."
As an Irishman, Yeats' struggles for Irish independence stand out as one of the contemporary strifes disquieting him. In line 2, Ireland, the falcon, has been detached from England, the falconer, so much, that the falcon cannot even hear the falconer, denoting the wrongs England exhorts on Ireland. (www.en.utexas.* 1) The Russian Revolution, another political...